Andy Murray’s Grand Slam season came to an abrupt end on Monday night, as he fell in four sets to the ever-improving Kevin Anderson in the fourth round of the US Open.
It was the first time in five years that Murray has lost before the quarter-finals at a slam – that’s 18 consecutive majors where he’s made the last eight or better.
It’s a streak half as good as Roger Federer’s record of 36 but still an incredibly impressive run.
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While crashing out of the tournament must feel like a massive disappointment, Murray does not have much to regret in terms of the tennis he played against a zoned-in Anderson.
The Scot fired 19 aces, was averaging just five unforced errors per set, managed to break Anderson’s monster serve three times, hit 49 winners and was an effective 18/24 at the net.
Those are good numbers. Anderson’s were simply better.
It’s easy to point to their head-to-head history (Murray was leading 5-1) and suggest Murray flopped in New York but that’s ignoring the fact that Anderson has made huge strides in every aspect of his game over the past year or so and a maiden Slam quarter-final was long overdue.
With a height of over two metres, players like Anderson are referred to as ‘serve-bots’ on Tour – men who unleash cannons for serves and boast little else. But Anderson showed the world how he is much more than that.
Here’s the MATCH STATS for Murray vs Anderson. Winners and BP conversion the difference. pic.twitter.com/QlyjDvIJ0u
— ByTheMin Tennis (@ByTheMinTennis) September 8, 2015
His movement has significantly improved and his groundstrokes saw him gain the upper hand in long rallies against a supreme baseliner in Murray.
The world No14 is very skilful at the net and punished Murray’s second serve. The 81 winners he struck are testament to his aggressive game.
It was more a case of Murray being outplayed than under-achieving, even though it is a match many predicted he would win.
The one thing he could lament is dwelling on the toilet break Anderson took after the second set.
Murray went through a stint of rage over the length of that break and it carried over into the start of the third set. The world No3 should know better by now than to allow such incidents affect his chances of winning.
Ultimately, it must be hard to get over the fact that for a second straight major, Murray suffered defeat while playing very good tennis.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) September 8, 2015
Is it possible that while the Brit is improving, others are getting better at a faster and more dramatic pace?
Murray has had a solid slam season, making the final in Melbourne, the semis in Paris and Wimbledon and the fourth round at the US Open.
But for a two-time major champion, surely making the latter stages is not good enough. He seems ever so close to having what it takes to add a third slam but just needs to tighten the screws.
His title run in Toronto was reassuring but the fact that he seemed fatigued at the Open suggests that he might have peaked earlier than he should have in the North American hard court swing.
If he’s going to continue with Jonas Bjorkman as his coach, then in time they can plan these things better together.
It’s been a promising season for Murray but one thing is for sure, he needs to work harder than ever to keep up with everyone and be considered a contender in Australia next January.
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